The Eastern Front 1914-1917

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Norman Stone lives in Oxford and Istanbul. He is the author of
Hitler, Europe Transformed
World War One: A Short History
. He has taught at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Bilkent, where he is now Director of the Turkish-Russian Centre.





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First published by Hodder & Stoughton 1975

Published in Penguin Books 1998


Copyright © Norman Stone, 1975

Introduction to the Penguin edition copyright © Norman Stone, 1998

All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-193885-1

For J. H. Plumb


List of Maps
Author’s Note
Introduction to the Penguin Edition
Introduction to the 1975 Edition
1 The Army and the State in Tsarist Russia
2 The Military Imperative, July 1914
3 The Opening Round: East Prussia
4 The Opening Round: Galicia
5 The First War-Winter, 1914–1915
6 The Austro-Hungarian Emergency
7 The Shell-Shortage, 1915
8 The Retreat, 1915
9 The Political War-Economy, 1916–1917
10 The Second War-Winter, 1915–1916
11 Summer, 1916
12 The Romanian Campaign, 1916–1917
13 War and Revolution, 1917


The line-up for war, 1914
Lwów—the first clash in Galicia, August 1914
Lódz, 1914
Galicia, 1914–15
The Carpathian battle, early 1915
Winter battle in Masuria, early 1915
The Central Powers’ triple offensive of 1915 and the Russian retreat
The Brusilov campaign
The Romanian campaigns, end of 1916

The maps are based on those reproduced in
The History of the First World War
published by Purnell for B.P.C. Publishing Ltd.

Author’s Note

A ‘common-sense’ system of transliteration from Cyrillic script has been used throughout. I have used the English ‘y’ as a consonant, and left ‘i’ to cover both Russian vowels approximating to it. I have omitted apostrophes signifying soft or hard signs. ‘Kh’ and ‘zh’ signify, as usual, ‘ch’ in ‘loch’ and ‘j’ in ‘jardin.

I have tried to be consistent as regards place-names that have changed several times in the course of this century, but it is difficult. My own inclination is to call every town by its modern name, but sometimes this becomes strikingly anachronistic (e.g. ‘Olsztyn’ for ‘Allenstein’ in East Prussia) and I have sometimes made concessions from my own rule.

Introduction to the Penguin Edition

When it came out in 1975, this book was something of a pioneer. In the West, there had been, in the sixties, a huge wave of interest in the First World War (my own interest in it was sparked off partly when I found Churchill’s
World Crisis
in the school library, and particularly when, in 1958, I read Leon Wolff’s In
Flanders Fields
). But from the Soviet Union, not much came out. Every belligerent country, including shattered Turkey, produced lengthy official histories and the archives were remarkably well-ordered to produce them. However, there was nothing comparable from the Soviet Union, the military archives of which remained, mainly, sealed. Of course the whole subject was vast and very difficult–even the Germans had not completed their official history by the end of the Second World War-and it cannot have helped that some qualified military historians were purged by Stalin in the thirties. Whatever you said about the Tsarist Russian army might give you trouble. If you wrote in a positive, patriotic way about it, you might offend against the Communist orthodoxy, by which everything Tsarist was condemned. If, on the other hand, you concentrated on the negative side, you could offend against the nationalist line which emerged with Stalin and which flourished under Brezhnev. Even the obvious sources were quite difficult to obtain; I was told, some years later, that The Eastern Front was listed in an East German catalogue, but could not be read without permission. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn had great difficulty in assembling various books and articles for the enormous, semi-demi-fictional account of the First World War and the Revolution,
The Red Wheel
, that he was planning, because the subject was still, in the seventies, taboo. Nowadays, we might of course expect a proper history of the First World War from Russia’s new historians, but in present circumstances they all have other things to do. So, for the moment, my own book is still a filler of the gap.

When I wrote it, in the later sixties and early seventies, I could not
have obtained access to Russian archives. However, there was a great deal in the West. The Hoover Institution in Stanford, California, collected documents from the Russian emigration; its founder, the later President Hoover, had been in Russia after the Civil War to organize famine-relief and he collected documents in return for food-some of the documents very revealing indeed. In Paris, the
Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contemporaine
had a vast amount, and at home in England I found a remarkable number of books, whether in Cambridge University Library, where Professor Elizabeth Hill had built up astonishing reserves, or the British Museum and that enduringly splendid institution, the Imperial War Museum. I could also use the records of British and French observers, some of whom wrote with great talent, and of course there were the archives of the Austro-Hungarian army, in Vienna, where I had spent three years. These archives survived remarkably well, and like other British historians, I had been given a privileged run of them by a very friendly and helpful staff. The German side of things could be studied from printed sources only, although, as it turns out, quite a number of the documents on which the German official history was to be based were taken to Moscow after capture in 1945. I shall be interested to see whether my accounts of some of the battles-sometimes ‘hunches’-stand up. I was flattered to discover that the most up-to-date account on the side of the Central Powers, Manfred Rauchensteiner’s
Der Tod des Doppeladlers
(1993), bears out what I said about the calamitous miscalculations made over mobilization in 1914.

As The Easten Front moved on, it became much more of a Russian than an Austro-Hungarian or German book. Its focus had originally been on the battlefields, and reconstructing events there was laborious enough, but quite quickly I became interested in the functioning of the army as an institution, and especially in the Russian economy at war. In the sixties, historians were interested in ‘modernization and so, disastrously, were English and Scottish local authorities and architects, who tore apart our Victorian cities in order to create what they hoped would be little Chicagos. The American, Walt Rostow, had produced the fashionable optimistic American book of the decade when he published his book about industrial ‘take-off saying that places became modern when they were able to save ten per cent of their national incomes, and as an undergraduate at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, taught by the legendary Neil McKendrick, I had become aware of the importance of industrial revolutions in general. There was a Russian equivalent, of a lurid kind.

Moving into the history of Russia, I had inevitably become involved
in the business of Stalin’s alleged modernization of a backward country. After all, he defeated the Germans, whereas the last Tsar had been defeated by them. In the early days of working on
The Easten Front
, I had come under the influence of E. H. Carr, the historian of the Bolshevik Revolution, and he had no time at all for Tsarist Russia, a backward place, he said, filled with feckless peasants. Stalin imposed Five Year Plans, dragooned the peasants into industry, starving or imprisoning millions of them in the process. ‘Was Stalin necessary?’ was a question that, in those days, historians seriously asked. Carr clearly thought so.

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